Brendan Rodgers believes Liverpool now boast a defensive record to rival their attacking threat in Premier League title push

Reds have maintained a clean sheet in their last two matches against Southampton and Manchester United

Liverpool's attacking threat has never been in question but manager Brendan Rodgers believes the balance they have struck in recent weeks gives them an even better chance of winning matches.

The Reds are on a 10-match unbeaten run, having won eight Barclays Premier League games since the start of the year and racked up a plus 20 goal difference for that time, but back-to-back clean sheets at Southampton and Manchester United have pointed to improvements elsewhere.

"If you look at the two sets of teams we were playing against, both are teams that can be offensive," he said.

"To have two clean sheets and restrict Manchester United to one shot on target - their lowest at Old Trafford in five seasons - shows you how hard our players are working without the ball as well as with it.

 

"It is the balance we have been looking for; we are playing an attacking aggressive game but it is equally important for us to defend.

"If we show that balance in our game it gives you the opportunity to win more."

Their form since the turn of the year has given Liverpool a shot at the title while also enhancing Rodgers' reputation as one of the brightest young managers around.

After the 3-0 win at United, captain Steven Gerrard urged owners Fenway Sports Group not to waste any time in extending the Northern Irishman's contract, which has a year to run with the option for a further 12-month extension.

"It gives me happiness that the captain, who is an iconic figure at this club and has worked with so many great managers, will say those words," said Rodgers, who has stressed he is focused on finishing the season rather than tying up loose ends on any new contract.

"As the manager you are aiming to earn the respect of the players - you don't necessarily have to be liked - and the supporters and hopefully, at this time, both are happy with where we are heading but we have a long way to go.

"But there will be no individual in this final part, it can only be on the club and the team."

In recent weeks Rodgers has opted for a settled line-up with only minimal changes when a tweak of approach was needed against a particular opponent.

But that does not mean he is neglecting those who have been restricted to supporting roles from the bench.

"You'll get the best out of players when they know they've got a challenge," he said.

"If a player has someone behind them that's really pushing to come into the team, that will hopefully stretch them to be at their best.

"The more competitions we're in, in the future, you have to interchange but long as everyone knows their job and can come in and do the job, that's what's important."

PA

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